USA-based sports journalist, Femi Adefeso has strongly opined that in-form Milwauke Bucks’ NBA star, Giannis Antetokounmpo is not widely regarded as a Nigerian-born player simply because his adopted surname does not reflect the African country’s tradition.
Speaking against the backdrop of Antetokounmpo’s recent declaration of his Nigerian heritage and decision to revive his original surname, which is Adetokunbo, Adefeso said The Bucks’ star has finally woken up.
However, after gaining Greek citizenship in 2013, a romanization of his surname “Adetokunbo” saw him become “Antetokounmpo,” thereby stripping away the obvious link to his Nigerian heritage.
Adefeso, who is renowned as an NBA expert and covered live the past two All-Star weekends, is now urging Antetokounmpo to show a stronger “Naija” affinity.
Antetokounmpo, one of this year’s leading favorites for the NBA’s most valuable player award, was born in Greece to Nigerian immigrants, has been the big force of a Bucks’ team that holds the season’s best record.
Recently, ‘The Greek Freak’ talked up his lineage and obtained a Nigerian passport back in 2015, a few months after first visiting Africa during the first NBA Africa Game in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Antetokounmpo, who was already on his way to becoming a full-fledged Greek international before becoming an NBA star, already has no chance of playing competitively for Nigeria, but disclosed that he plans to visit the country in the next two years.
He is already trailing after Hakeem ‘The Dream’ Olajuwon, Nigeria’s all-time icon and greatest basketball export, who turned out to win a gold medal with USA’s ‘Dream Team 3’ at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
As part of a steady streak since joining Bucks in 2013, Antetokounmpo has set several records, while also boosting the franchise’s hopes of a first NBA championship since 1971.
However, while he is a household name in America and Greece, same is not the case in his father’s country, which Adefeso says is caused only by reason of the in-form player’s unusual surname – Antetokounmpo.
“Most people here can’t relate very easily firstly because of the way his name is spelled.
“Compare that with Victor Oladipo (of Indiana Pacers), and it speaks out loud. You know he is Nigerian right away,” Adefeso concluded.